Day (Jonathan Cape)
AL Kennedy’s latest creation, Alfred Day, finds his purpose through the Second World War, enjoying a sense of camaraderie as tail-gunner in a bomber crew. His narrative switches between this time and 1949, when a broken Day is trying to recover his life while working as an extra in a POW film. This is a neat device, allowing subtle comparisons between the real horrors of war and the anodyne recreation of it, between reality and myth. Also, setting the book primarily after the war allows Kennedy to depict the jumbled morality of that time. While there are obvious comparisons with our current situation in Iraq, the author wisely handles any parallels with great care.
As the book progresses we learn what has changed Day from being the confident part of a gang to the hopeless, empty shell he is in 1949. Although this is dealt with well, at times there’s too much introspective internal monologue and observation, and simply not enough by way of plot or action, the tense and visceral wartime bombing raids aside. Compensating up to a point is the writer’s superbly vivid portrayal of Day’s complex character, and the depiction of the complications of war. Also, there is something in Kennedy’s prose which is somehow cumulatively impressive, as if by the end, the sheer weight of words makes you care what happens. This is not always an easy read, and not as engaging as it could be early on, but it’s an intriguing piece of work nonetheless.